BLACK APRON GUIDE TO... CHICKEN

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We have put together a guide to help you with the different cuts of chicken available and what cooking method each cut is best suited to.

 

Where and when to buy

Chickens are available throughout the year and are usually sold oven-ready. Nowadays chicken is readily available both fresh and frozen. Supermarkets usually sell packaged birds by oven-ready weight but a fresh bird bought from a butcher, is likely to be sold plucked, but with the sweetbreads still in place. The butcher will draw it for you if you do not wish to do it yourself. Ask him for the giblets which can be used to make gravies and stuffing. Generally a larger bird gives better value because the proportion of meat to bone is higher. As well as being available whole, poultry can be bought in individual portions – legs, wings, thighs, drumsticks, halves and quarters. Chicken and turkeys are also frequently smoked as gourmet items.

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Cooking Chicken

Chicken is an especially delicate meat, so it needs consideration before cooking since as deciding on how to cook the chicken depends on the age of the bird: tender, young poultry can be barbecued, fried, grilled or roasted; old birds need long, slow braising or stewing; traditional dishes such as the Scottish cock-a-leekie, and the French coq au vin are unlikely to have been prepared with cockerels but with capons or boiling fowl. The age and the type of poultry therefore determines the method and the recipe. 

 

Storing Poultry

Fresh, uncooked poultry should be used within two or three days of purchasing provided it has been kept in a refrigerator. Once cooked it should be kept in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped, and re-used within a few days.

The meat can also be frozen, when thawing frozen poultry it is best to do so gradually in a refrigerator allowing about 15 hours for a 1.5kg bird; alternatively it can be thawed by placing the bird in a sink and covering it with cold water,  the water should be changed regularly until the bird thaws. A common mistake people make when defrosting chicken in a sink is using hot water and not cleaning the sink after they have finished thawing the chicken. Thawing chickens in a sink will leave residual chicken traces and cause severe illness, sinks should be throughly wash and sanitized afterwards and hot water should never be used to defrost chicken as it also promotes bacterial growth and can cause illness. 

 

 

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Rare Breeds

There are many hundreds of varieties of hens: "The Light" Sussex in England; "The Faverolles" and "Breese" in France; "The White Cornish" and "The White Rock" in America; and the way that these breeds have been developed is a closely guarded secret. Birds are rated by their performance –how many days it takes to reach a certain weight. "The British Ross" will reach a thumping 2.3kg in 5 weeks, and "America’s Cobb" 500 will reach 2kg. 

 

 

Chicken is sold under different names, normally according to their age and weight:

 

Poussins: baby chickens, 4-6 weeks old and weighing up to 2lb (900g); most popular in England and Parts of Europe, and used for roasting or barbecueing.

 

Spring Chickens: small broilers, 6-8 weeks old, weighing (900g-1.1kg); suitable for most methods of cooking but are best roasted

 

Roasting Chickens: usually young cockerels or hens weighing from 2.3-4.6kg ideal for roasting, barbecueing or frying

 

Boiling Fowl: older tougher birds weighing up to 3.2kg usually cooked slowly in stews or casseroles.

 

Broilers: small birds weighing 1.1-1.6kg, mostly used for frying and grilling.

 
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WHOLE CHICKEN

Probably the most common way to cook a whole bird would be to roast it. To roast a chicken, brush with oil or fat and, if it is to be stuffed, pack the stuffing loosely just before roasting; tightly packed stuffing will go soggy. Never stuff ahead; a chicken that, for convenience, has been stuffed the previous day may encourage bacterial activity. Birds that are roasted in aluminium foil, or in a ceramic “chicken brick” are in fact cooked by steam and not by radiant heat-they will need a final 20 to 30 minutes browning, uncovered. As a general guide, a 2 to 2½lb (900-1kg broiler will take 1 to 1¼ hours at 400ºF (200ºC). To test whether the birds are cooked, pierce the thigh or drumstick to the bone with a sharp pointed knife or fork. If the juices run clear and free of blood, or if the joints sever easily when pulled, the chicken is ready for serving.

Whether it’s for a classic Sunday roast, or if want to break it down into the different cuts Buying a whole chicken is definitely the cheapest way to buy chicken. In restaurants it is popular to de-bone it and flatten it out into a “Spatchcock”, it can then be cooked very quickly under the grill or roasted with a marinade. Also increasingly popular is to poach the whole chicken as it is a wonderful way to retain all the flavours of the bird, or roast it simply with a lemon and some herbs in the cavity. However you decide to prepare your whole chicken, be sure to keep the carcass and use it for homemade stock. 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

WHOLE CHICKEN

Probably the most common way to cook a whole bird would be to roast it. To roast a chicken, brush with oil or fat and, if it is to be stuffed, pack the stuffing loosely just before roasting; tightly packed stuffing will go soggy. Never stuff ahead; a chicken that, for convenience, has been stuffed the previous day may encourage bacterial activity. Birds that are roasted in aluminium foil, or in a ceramic “chicken brick” are in fact cooked by steam and not by radiant heat-they will need a final 20 to 30 minutes browning, uncovered. As a general guide, a 2 to 2½lb (900-1kg broiler will take 1 to 1¼ hours at 400ºF (200ºC). To test whether the birds are cooked, pierce the thigh or drumstick to the bone with a sharp pointed knife or fork. If the juices run clear and free of blood, or if the joints sever easily when pulled, the chicken is ready for serving.

Whether it’s for a classic Sunday roast, or if want to break it down into the different cuts Buying a whole chicken is definitely the cheapest way to buy chicken. In restaurants it is popular to de-bone it and flatten it out into a “Spatchcock”, it can then be cooked very quickly under the grill or roasted with a marinade. Also increasingly popular is to poach the whole chicken as it is a wonderful way to retain all the flavours of the bird, or roast it simply with a lemon and some herbs in the cavity. However you decide to prepare your whole chicken, be sure to keep the carcass and use it for homemade stock. 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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BREAST

Undeniably the most popular part of a chicken, you can buy breast either whole or sliced, and with the skin either on or off. Without the skin, it’s the leanest cut of the bird.be careful when cooks the low fat content means if over-cooked it can be very dry. Chicken breast can be barbecued, roasted, grilled, stuffed, pan-fried, baked. Chopped or sliced pieces can be added to stews, stir-fries and pies.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

BREAST

Undeniably the most popular part of a chicken, you can buy breast either whole or sliced, and with the skin either on or off. Without the skin, it’s the leanest cut of the bird.be careful when cooks the low fat content means if over-cooked it can be very dry. Chicken breast can be barbecued, roasted, grilled, stuffed, pan-fried, baked. Chopped or sliced pieces can be added to stews, stir-fries and pies.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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WINGS

Chicken wings are the cheapest part of the chicken, but there is a whole industry dedicated to this little part of the bird, they are absolutely incredible to eat! The meatier half of a wing can be used separately and is called a ‘drumette’. They obviously still contain the bones and can be roasted, grilled or barbecued. With a similar fat content to thighs and drumsticks. Bring out the richer, meaty flavours of the wings by coating in a sweet, sticky glaze. Marinade them overnight for best results.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

WINGS

Chicken wings are the cheapest part of the chicken, but there is a whole industry dedicated to this little part of the bird, they are absolutely incredible to eat! The meatier half of a wing can be used separately and is called a ‘drumette’. They obviously still contain the bones and can be roasted, grilled or barbecued. With a similar fat content to thighs and drumsticks. Bring out the richer, meaty flavours of the wings by coating in a sweet, sticky glaze. Marinade them overnight for best results.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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DRUMSTICKS

Drumsticks take to marinades extremely well. As a result they are big wedding and barbeque favourites. they are essentially the chicken’s shins, they come on the bone and are very cheap and easy to cook. Bring out the richer, meaty flavours of the wings by coating in a sweet, sticky glaze. Marinade them overnight for best results.

 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

DRUMSTICKS

Drumsticks take to marinades extremely well. As a result they are big wedding and barbeque favourites. they are essentially the chicken’s shins, they come on the bone and are very cheap and easy to cook. Bring out the richer, meaty flavours of the wings by coating in a sweet, sticky glaze. Marinade them overnight for best results.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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THIGHS

Chicken thighs from the top of the bird’s leg and are widely considered the tastiest part of the chicken. Thighs have a really good fat content so are a very tender, juicy meat. Supermarkets and butchers sell them bone in, or bone out, and with or without the the skin. The meat is darker and firmer than  breast meat and will need longer to cook. The best results panfriy the thigh with the skin on until golden then finish off in the oven. Cook until it is cooked all the way through.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

THIGHS

Chicken thighs from the top of the bird’s leg and are widely considered the tastiest part of the chicken. Thighs have a really good fat content so are a very tender, juicy meat. Supermarkets and butchers sell them bone in, or bone out, and with or without the the skin. The meat is darker and firmer than  breast meat and will need longer to cook. The best results panfriy the thigh with the skin on until golden then finish off in the oven. Cook until it is cooked all the way through.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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LEGS

The best part of a Sunday roast is the whole leg. They are cheaper than buying the whole bird and contain the tastiest meat on the chicken. At their very best when they are roasted in the oven or grilled them on the barbecue. Again they take to marinade extremely well and for best result leave over-night.  

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

LEGS

The best part of a Sunday roast is the whole leg. They are cheaper than buying the whole bird and contain the tastiest meat on the chicken. At their very best when they are roasted in the oven or grilled them on the barbecue. Again they take to marinade extremely well and for best result leave over-night. 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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